Book apps and legacy media: How the humble picturebook informs interaction design


Session Title:

  • Digital Narratives & E-Literature

Presentation Title:

  • Book apps and legacy media: How the humble picturebook informs interaction design




  • Digital technologies have permeated all sectors of publishing. There are increasing expectations that books will contain multimedia, interactive, multi-genre content. What once were static pages are now responsive media arenas. Book apps allow for picture books to be presented in a multimedia, interactive, playful environment. Like most digital mediums, book apps draw on the conventions deployed within legacy media. Children’s visual literature commonly combines textual expression, visual art, multimedia, interactivity and play. Multimedia content has been incorporated into picture books for decades. And the idea that children’s picture books should contain interactive elements and playful aspects was one that was developed almost four hundred years ago. This being the case, how can the techniques deployed in the making of picture books inform book app design?

    Within this discussion I analyse the media content within children’s book apps and trace the connections between picture books and book apps. This involves tracking a history of print picture books and investigating the links between picture books, games and film. I also uncover the ways in which book app animation influences the user experience. This is with the view to assessing how picture book making techniques have shaped, or could shape, both book app design and interaction design. In this presentation I draw on picture book theorists Perry Nodelman and Maria Nikolajeva. I also refer to digital media analyst Janet Murray. In conclusion I propose possible future directions for highly interactive, multimedia digital books, assessing how these works have the potential to either strengthen or weaken the evolution of literature as an art-form. I also highlight the ways in which picture book making practices inform children’s interaction design, specifically within works that include animation, narration and text.